From Greg McCandless, via e-mail:
I’m only a recent visitor to your website but found that you had recently addressed Gary Schneeberger’s column on the Focus on the Family’s website regarding his recent revelation that he had been acting “morally superior” since viewing “Brokeback Mountain.”
I too was blown away by the smugness of his message, but also felt compelled to take him up on his offer of truly wanting to understand why this film is such a “watershed moment for these people and their movement.” I also wanted to help counteract the negative audience experience he witnessed during his screening (and apparently has received reports of similar experiences around the country). So I e-mailed him the following letter and encouraged all my friends to e-mail him with their experiences while watching the film in order to help him better understand. I would encourage you to do the same with everyone who reads your blog. It’s a great opportunity to take him up on his own offer!
Below is a copy of the e-mail I sent my friends and family as well as my letter. Best of luck and keep up the good work!
The letters follow:
I usually try to keep these to minimum, but I’ve gotten pissed off again and fired off another letter. This time it’s to a gentleman at Focus On The Family who wrote this recent column regarding “Brokeback Mountain.”
So as you can imagine, I got a little miffed. But here’s the thing… in his column he says that he truly wants to understand why this film is such a watershed moment for the people who enjoy and watch this film. And I’m taking him up on his offer, so I sent him a note and told him I would encourage all my friends and family who have seen “Brokeback Mountain” to send him an e-mail as well with their experiences regarding the film since he only seems to get negative reviews (imagine that!). To e-mail him, just click the link and put “To Mr. Schneeberger” in the subject line. They do ask for a e-mail address, sorry about that… but put in a fake one if you want to avoid any sort of response.
Thanks for your help with this and if I get any sort of response, I’ll let you know. As always, below is a copy of the letter I sent him (it’s a bit long, I know… but mama had a lot to say). ***Warning, there is a spoiler in my letter that gives away part of the film, so if you haven’t seen it yet, just beware.
Love to you all,
It is with great interest that I read your recent column “Brokeback Conviction”. I must admit that I am not a regular reader of your website and was in fact only introduced to your writing after being directed there via a blog that I read quite regularly. Your column is an incredible example of the huge cultural divide that exists between the evangelical Christian right such as yourself and people such as myself who exist in the more secular left. How amazing that we both could sit through the same exact film and come out with such different interpretations and calls to action.
First, I must admit that the audience with which I viewed “Brokeback Mountain” wasn’t nearly as filled to the brim with “insensitive” and “immature” gay men and women as yours. At my screening, there was no cheering during the scene which particularly inspired your ire: that of Jack and Ennis’ reunion and the tragic moment in which Ennis’ wife witnesses their embrace. In fact, there were audible gasps of horror and sadness by those around me. Now I must confess my theater did not conduct any sort of census or identify those who were homosexuals versus those who were heterosexual when we entered (as apparently yours did since you seem so convinced of the orientation of those who laughed and cheered), but I would venture to guess that those who gasped in horror were a solid mix of gays and straights alike.
To be honest, I witnessed tears and sadness by those around me throughout this film, a point you fail to address in your column. And while I know it helps your cause (and probably makes it easier for you to sleep at night) to imagine gays and lesbians sitting around slapping high fives and hooting and hollering everytime a marriage dissolves because one person can no longer hide behind the lie of who they present themselves to be, this is simply not the case. What I witnessed was a common sorrow because, like the characters in “Brokeback Mountain”, many of us see people still to this day who throw away their entire lives in order to live out a lie of pretend heterosexuality. And one of the most ironic parts of the backlash against this film by the Christian Right, is that you never touch upon the fact that both of these men try and play by your rules and get nothing but sorrow and wasted opportunity in return. These men marry, they father children, they attend church and do many of the things your “ex-gay” programs recommend and yet what ultimately proves true is that hiding who you are and who you love cannot be suppressed and doing so leaves lives devastated and ruined.
But what I find most sad about your column, Mr. Schneeberger, and what I see to be the most “un-Christlike” of all the criticial Christian reviews of “Brokeback Mountain” that I have read, is that not one of you speaks out against the horrific and violent episode that the character of Jack suffers at the end of this film. There is not one word of your column that is dedicated to educating and informing your public that this fear and anger directed at the gay and lesbian population can often reach tragic and violent ends and many an innocent life has been lost to the hands of “god-fearing Christians” with views much like your own. It seems to me Jesus would have walked away from this film less concerned with the “normalization” of homosexuality or the pains of a woman wronged by her closeted husband, but instead fired up to deliver impassioned sermons on the need of everyone to be kind to one another, even if your opionions leave you on opposite sides of the fence. So while you walked away from this film concerned with your own selfish fears of coming across as “morally superior”, I walked away fearful for all my brethern who risk their personal wellbeing on a daily basis to simply live and be who they are.
In a day and age where divorce is more common that committment, where corporate greed and personal materialism reign and where church parking lots are filled with environment-destroying SUVs driven by McMansion-owning drivers while poor families in these same communities live without adequate healthcare, your pastors and your teachers choose to rail against the sex lives of one particular sector of the population. How many of your columns have spoken out against extreme violence in films, Mr. Schneeberger? How many times in recent months have stood upon your soapbox to speak out against materialism and greed, divorce or the glorification of war? Any chance of an upcoming column speaking out against corrupt Republican politicians taking kickbacks in return for political favors? The Christian Right’s treatment of the gay community is equivilant to the bully beating up the new kid in the schoolyard. But people are catching on. You will bring about your own downfall, trust me on this. You have every right to be concerned about the moral superiority projected by those behind your movement.
But I do find hope in your column and commend you on your openess to explore and examine your feelings of moral superiority. And believe it or not, I want to help you, Mr. Schneeberger. Pat assumptions and glaringly false stereotypes are what your movement is built upon and I am sorry that these characterizations were given fuel by a few agreeably immature people in your theater. But rest assured I am encouraging friends and family alike to forward you their experiences of watching “Brokeback Mountain” and hopefully these will somehow counteract the “similar reports [you have received] from across the country”. I know you will appreciate these reports as you try and examine why gays and lesbians “view this film as such a watershed moment for themselves and their movement”. For me, this was a film that simply reassured my commitment to living each and every day as true to myself as possible. It reaffirmed my belief in the power of love, even if it sometimes goes unfulfilled. It made me feel lucky to be able to live such an open and honest life with my partner. And it reminded me that even small things like one little film can change lives and open people’s eyes to a struggle they either did not know existed or chose to ignore.
I wish you the best of luck in your search for lessons from “Brokeback Mountain”, Mr. Schneeberger. May peace and understand come your way very soon.
Los Angeles, CA